Color me Cheap
Ah, you always remember you first. Rainbow has been there for me since day one, literally. I hadn't even been living in NYC 24 hours when I tagged along with near strangers on an L journey from Williamsburg's then outer boundaries to Ridgewood, Queens.
I was totally freaked out, it was too everything, noisy, stinky (the girl we were visiting lived down the street from someone who kept chickens in their apt. and that part of the block smelled like a serious coop), chaotic, pushy. The crisscrossy intersection with relentless traffic that zooms underneath the Myrtle-Wyckoff station had me paralyzed with trepidation (or maybe it was the realization that I'd just moved across the country to a beast of city where I didn't really know anyone or have any permanent place to stay had started to sink in with full force). Salsa music, too many people in too little space, and hotter May weather than I was accustomed to, started unsettling me.
It must've shown on my face. A random guy sidled up next to me, "don't be afraid of the cars," he repeated over and over in a forceful manner that I tried not to interpret as aggressive because I'm sure he thought he was being helpful though he wasn't.
The only thing that soothed me that day (in addition to breaking down and having a cigarette, all hopes of starting out smoke-free in New York dashed) were the dingy little, almost all alike discount stores that line Myrtle Avenue. I'm still not clear how so many 99-cent stores survive in such close proximity. Dee & Dee perked me up a bit, then Rainbow totally boosted my spirits much in the way a real rainbow pops up after a storm and makes everything pretty. They had lots of cheap juniors-styled clothing, but in plus-sizes too, and a big shoe selection. Never mind the lack of air conditioning, I still felt comforted.
A month later I moved into a ratty but good sized apartment of my own in Ridgewood ($580 for a one-bedroom, no references, no job, no questions asked). Who knew I'd get stuck in that freaky isolated section of Queens for three years' At least Rainbow and Lerner turned New York & Company (where I promptly got a credit card for new work-friendly clothes and somehow still have a balance of over $600 six years later) made the neighborhood a little more bearable.
Now I live in a part of Brooklyn that thinks it's too good for a Rainbow (they're rarely in gentrified neighborhoods). Luckily, I now work walking distance to the best stocked location I think I've ever encountered. Fifth Avenue is supposed to be known for its shopping, right? Upstairs is a whole mini floor devoted to shoes, mostly under $25 and mostly crafted from man made materials. Downstairs is 80% plus size, 20% intimate apparel, which is frankly where I draw the line. The main floor is irrelevant to me.
Whenever I need a cheap pair of colorful shoes to match an outfit or a cute sleeveless going out top that might get worn a mere handful of times, Rainbow rarely disappoints. It's a reliable, trendy for two months, go to, the way some might view Marc by Marc Jacobs or chains like H&M and Zara. But this is really cheap, as in $7 shoes and shirts cheap. Sure, the clothes are shoddy, there's an abundance of unnatural fibers, and the style leans towards um, 'urban' (think basketball jersey mini dresses) but if you're selective, affordable accent pieces are there for the picking.
There's no way around it, Rainbow rules. The motto on their almost-as-low-tech-as-Western Beef's website says it all: 'We sell attractive fashion at moderate to popular prices.' Yes, moderate to popular is a great qualifier.
Rainbow * 380 Fifth Ave., New York, NY (and throughout the city's finest neighborhoods)